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Nigerian peacemakers win Chirac foundation prize

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The 'Fondation Chirac' has awarded its first prize for conflict prevention to two Nigerian religious leaders. The award is intended to honour unsung peacemakers across the world.


The 'Fondation Chirac', a Paris-based NGO founded by former French President Jacques Chirac, awarded its first prizes for conflict prevention to two Nigerian religious leaders at an award ceremony in Paris Friday.

The foundation’s first conflict prevention prizes were awarded to Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, two religious leaders from Nigeria’s Muslim and Christian communities respectively, for their work in trying to diffuse ethnic tensions in the oil-rich yet impoverished African nation.

Speaking at the awards ceremony Friday, Chirac referred to Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye as “two former opponents who have challenged the use of violence to devote themselves to the reconciliation of hearts and minds, in a Nigeria suffering from ethnic violence”.

A Special Jury Prize was also awarded to Dr. Park Jae-Kyu, a former South Korean minister of unification, for his work on the Korean peninsula.

Former French politician and renowned feminist Simone Veil presented the prize to Park and hailed him as a "tireless promoter of dialogue with North Korea,” whose work "paved the way for the reconciliation of peoples”.

During his speech, Chirac also paid homage to French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who died Tuesday aged 100.

'A sign of support’

Friday’s awards ceremony was attended by a number of high-profile guests, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

According to FRANCE 24’s Sylvain Attal, Sarkozy’s presence at the awards ceremony was a “sign of support” for his predecessor.

Chirac is currently facing corruption charges over a fake jobs scandal while he was mayor of Paris in the early 1990s before becoming president. The former French president has denied the charges.

In an interview with French TV station I-Télé, Henri Guaino, a special advisor to Sarkozy, noted that the current French president’s presence was as “a sign of his respect for Chirac’s work in the prevention of conflicts”.

Founded in June 2008, more than a year after Chirac ended his presidential term, the 'Fondation Chirac' works to protect biodiversity, promote dialogue between cultures and foster respect for the environment.

Last month, the foundation launched a high-profile initiative against counterfeit drugs being sold in the developing world in Benin.


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